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The Arma dei Carabinieri (Corps of Carabineers) is the national gendarmerie of Italy, policing both the military and civilian populations. The ''Carabinieri'' is now a branch of the armed forces (alongside the Army, Navy and Air Force), thus ending their long standing role as the first corps of the Italian army.

Early history

The corps was created by King Victor Emmanuel I of Savoy, with the aim of providing the Kingdom of Sardinia with a police corps similar to the French Gendarmerie. Previously, police duties were managed by the ''Dragoni di Sardegna'' corps, created in 1726 and composed of volunteers. After French soldiers had occupied Turin at the end of the 18th century and later abandoned it to the Kingdom of Piedmont, the corps of Royal Carabinieri was instituted under the Royal Patents of July 13, 1814.

The new force was divided into divisions on the scale of one division for each province. The divisions were further divided into Companies and sub-divided into Lieutenancies which commanded and coordinated the local police stations, and were distributed throughout the national territory in direct contact with the public.

In 1868, the ''Corazzieri'' mounted division was formed, initially as an escort of honour for the Sovereign, and since 1946 for the President of the Republic. The Unity of Italy saw the number of divisions increased, and on 24 January 1861 the Carabinieri were appointed the ''First Force'' of the a newly founded national military organization. The Carabinieri were raised in status and became an Armed Force on 31 March 2000.


During the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini (1922-1943) the Carabinieri were one of the police forces entrusted with suppressing any opposition in Italy. During the same period and while part of the Italian Africa Police, mainly in the late 1930s, they were involved in atrocities in colonial Italian East Africa and during the Second Italo-Abyssinian War. During World War II they fought in their function as Military Police against the allied forces and against Yugoslav Partisans as part of the Italian occupation force in Yugoslavia.

After the fall of Benito Mussolini on July 25, 1943 he was arrested by the Carabinieri as he left the royal palace in Rome and subsequently imprisoned on Campo Imperatore by Carabinieri forces. After the armistice between Italy and the Allies on 3 September 1943 and the following split of the country into the fascist Italian Social Republic in Northern Italy and the Kingdom of Italy in Southern Italy the Carabinieri split into two groups: in Southern Italy the "Carabinieri Command for Liberated Italy" was founded in Bari and mobilized new units for the Italian war of liberation. These units were attached to the "Italian Liberation Corps" and the six Italian "Combat Groups" of the Italian Co-Belligerent Army and fought with the Allied Forces. In the north of Italy the fascist regime organized the Black Brigades, made up of Carabinieri, military personnel and Blackshirts militia, and employed them extensively in Anti-Partisan operations. Although called brigades the units were more in the size of companies and in total all 49 brigades never exceeded a total strength of 12,000.

Due to the role the Carabinieri had played in the downfall of Mussolini and as the only two units that fought the German occupation of Rome were the Granatieri di Sardegna regiments and the II Carabinieri cadet battalion, the Germans didn’t see the Carabinieri as loyal to the fascist cause and ordered the disbandment of all Carabinieri units in the Axis controlled territory on October 7, 1943. As German forces subsequently began to arrest and deport members of the Carabinieri to Germany for forced labour, large numbers of Carabinieri joined the Italian resistance movement. After the war the Carabinieri counted at least 2,735 fallen and 6,500 wounded out of approximately 14,000, who had joined the resistance in northern and central Italy. In Yugoslavia the Carabinieri formed a battalion of the Italian Partisan Garibaldi Division, which fought alongside the Yugoslavian Partisans against German and Croatian Forces. As the battalion lost over 80% of its members in combat, they were awarded the Silver Medal of Military Valor to commemorate the fallen.

Present day

The ''Carabinieri'' are today particularly proud of the memory of Brigadiere Salvo D'Acquisto, who was executed by the Germans in Palidoro, near Rome, in World War II, having exchanged his life for the lives of citizens due to be executed in retaliation for the killing of a German soldier. Brigadier D'Acquisto claimed responsibility and was executed for the offence.

The Carabinieri were criticised for their handling of the policing of the 2001 G8 Summit in Genoa and the killing of anarchist Carlo Giuliani during the demonstrations against the Group of Eight. A Carabinieri Land Rover Defender had become stuck and protesters wielding metal poles and wooden boards attacked it. In the midst of this clash a protester, Carlo Giuliani, picked up a fire extinguisher and, apparently intending to throw it at the vehicle, he was shot by one of the officers in the vehicle, Mario Placanica. The charges against Placanica were subsequently dropped when the presiding judge concluded that the bullet which struck Giuliani was not directly aimed at Giuliani and had "ricocheted off plaster", and ruled that the carabinieri had acted in self-defense. The case did not go to trial.[http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/3002469.stm http://news.bbc.co.uk] It has been since alleged that the court proceededings were a sham.

In recent years Carabinieri units have been dispatched on peacekeeping missions, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In 2003 twelve Carabinieri were killed in a suicide bombing on their base in Nasiriyah, near Basra, in southern Iraq, in the largest Italian military loss of life in a single action since the Second World War.

At the Sea Island Conference of the G8 in 2004, Carabinieri were given the mandate to establish a Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units to spearhead the development of training and doctrinal standards for civilian police units attached to international peacekeeping missions.


Senior Carabinieri General in VM 90 during the 2007 army parade in Italy.

The corps is headed by the , consisting of the Comandante Generale (a General), the '''', a Lieutenant General, and the Headquarters Staff, all located in Rome. At the top is the Headquarters which directs, coordinates and supervises all activities of the force. It directly supervises the Directors of Administration, Health, Engineering, motor pool, and Veterinary Commission. Since the Chief of Staff depends on the of the (National Center for Recruitment and Selection) of the National Administrative Center and Legislation.

The Carabinieri are organised on a territorial basis for law enforcement missions. The territorial organization represents the core of the institution because it contains 80 percent of the force and is organized hierarchically in five inter-regional, 19 regional and 102 provincial commands.
Outside the territorial organisation, the Specialist Mobile Unit Command ''Palidoro'' based in Rome controls the Mobile Unit Division, Specialist Unit Division and the ROS.

The Mobile Unit Division

The Mobile Unit Division is located in Treviso and has two brigades with the tasks of mass manoeuvring events to cope with emergencies, to perform military tasks associated with the defence of the national territory and participation in military operations abroad, provides support activities in the area of public order and control of the territory in large urban areas and in the most sensitive areas in terms of public safety and contributes to the operations of the civil authorities.


The ROS (''Raggruppamento Operativo Speciale'') or Special Operational Group is an elite unit founded in 1990 to deal with organised crime (Mafia and others), subversive activities, terrorism and the more complex types of crime. An anti-crime section is found in every city district public prosecutor's office.

Special Tasks Departments

Special Tasks Departments are outside the ordinary organisational framework and are used for special missions:
''Corazzieri'' (Cuirassiers) are an elite corps and honour guard of the President of the Italian Republic located in the Quirinal Palace. They are distinguished by their uniforms and height (the minimum height for admission is 190cm, or 6 feet 3inches). They have almost no other everyday duties, although they may be seen patrolling occasionally.
Other departments are in service to Constitutional Bodies such as the Presidency of the Republic, the Senate, Parliament, the Judiciary, the Prime Minister and the National Council of Economy and Labour.
Carabinieri also perform Military police and security duties for the Ministry of Defence, military high commands, offices of the military judiciary and allied military organisations in Italy and abroad. They also have personnel attached to the Department of Public Security in various departments as well as anti-mafia and anti-drug investigation task forces. Furthermore, ''Carabinieri'' officers are in charge of surveillance and security at Italian Embassies and Consulates abroad, performing the same services entrusted to the United States Marine Corps in US Diplomatic and Consular offices.

War service

The main battles in which the Carabinieri took part before World War I are:

* Grenoble, July 5, 1815 (baptism of fire)
* Battle of Pastrengo, 30 April 1848, the Carabinieri Corps was awarded its first Silver Medal of Military Valor
* Battle of Santa Lucia, 6 May 1848, the Carabinieri Corps was awarded its first Bronze Medal of Military Valor
* Battle of Custoza, 24 July – 25 July 1848
* Battle of Custoza, 24 June 1866
* Capture of Rome, 20 September 1870, together with the Bersaglieri

For its contributions during the First World War, the Corps was awarded its first Gold Medal of Military Valor

In World War II, Carabinieri distinguished themselves in the following battles:
* Battle of Klisoura on the Greek-Albanian front from 16 to 30 December 1940 Bronze Medal for Military Valor
* Battle at Cafe Struga on the Albanian-Yugoslav front on 18 April 1941
* Battle of Culqualber (Ethiopia), 6 August-21 November 1941, Corps was awarded its second Gold Medal of Military Valor

From 1943 to 1945, the Carabinieri were answerable to the Control Commission of the Allied Military Government (AMGOT). Their reorganization and reform was organized by Colonel Arthur Young, a British police officer seconded as Director of Public Safety and Director of Security.


They were issued a distinctive uniform in dark blue with silver braid around the collar and cuffs, edges trimmed in scarlet and epaulettes in silver. The mounted division had white fringes and, the infantry had light blue. Their headgear was a distinctive hat with two points popularly called the ''lucerna''.
They still use a version of the historic uniform today for ceremonies.

The full set of different Carabinieri uniforms today is presented here (in Italian):


In response to the many and diverse needs of the Carabinieri, the service provides for the use of various types of weapons that are divided into ''ordinary'' weapons and ''special'' weapons, supplied to all staff is structured as follows:


* Pistols: Beretta 92, the standard service arm, and 8000 Cougar for Officers
* Submachine gun: Mod.PM 12 S2
* Assault rifle: Beretta AR70/90
* Light machinegun: FN Minimi

Special weapons

Used only by certain departments and in certain circumstances:
* Submachine gun: Heckler & Koch MP5
* Shotgun: Franchi SPAS-15
* Sharpshooter: Mauser SP66
* Sniper rifle: Accuracy International AWP

Vehicles and equipment

Until very recently the Italian Police including the ''Carabinieri'' operated only Italian built vehicles but that changed with the introduction of Land Rover Defenders and Subarus into service. Normal ''Carabinieri'' patrol vehicles are very dark blue with a white roof, the blue has a red stripe along the side. Carabinieri license plates beginning with "CC" and for traditional reasons Carabinieri cars are called ''Gazzella'' (gazelle). Small or medium-sized cars are used for ordinary patrol work, with larger and more powerful vehicles being used for emergency response, traffic patrol and special services.
The vehicles of the ''Carabinieri'' military police and mobile units are painted Italian military green and have license plates beginning with "EI," as do the vehicles of other Italian Army vehicles.


Carabinieri Iveco VM 90 van
* Bertone Freeclimber
* Toyota Carina 2
* Subaru Legacy SW
* Alfa Romeo 155
* Fiat Brava 1600
* Alfa Romeo 156
* Alfa Romeo 159
* Fiat Panda 4x4
* Land Rover Freelander
* Land Rover Defender-90 hard top
* Fiat Punto 60'' 1 ^ series'' and ELX ''2 ^ series''
* Fiat Stilo 1.9 JTD
* Fiat Ducato
* Fiat Grande Punto
* Fiat Bravo


* Moto Guzzi California Courassier
* BMW motorcycles F650GS and R85-T


* Agusta A109
* Agusta-Bell AB 412
* Agusta-Bell AB 206

Tactical vehicles

* Land Rover Defender 110 soft top
* IVECO 40.10WM 4X4 off-road military truck - light armored vehicle based on the Iveco Daily, includes semi-armored and fully-armored variants called the VM90 Torpedo and VM90 Protected.
* Unimog
* Puma 6x6
* Fiat 6616
* VCC1


* Zodiac boats

Special Vehicles


Source: Wikipedia